Board of ed approves updated health curriculum

Students to learn more about relationships, mental health

(EMILY LIU/The Sun)

Last week’s township board of education meeting saw the approval and adoption of the updated and controversial health and physical education curriculum, along with a promise to alert parents about how and when the curriculum will be taught and what it will involve. 

Changes include students looking at the differences between boys and girls, gender stereotypes and expressions by the end of second grade, learning the reproductive system and variations in bodies by the end of eighth grade, and will get lessons on preventing pregnancy and becoming a teen or young adult parent by the end of 12th grade.

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High-school representatives Aidan Rood and Lizbeth Reyes voiced their support at the meeting for the new content, given how they and their peers get much of their information about sex through unreliable social media sites.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there and sex is not going away,” Rood said. “Gender identity is not going away. People may know I identify as nonbinary, and … people like me are not going to stop existing either way. 

“There are people of diverse genders, sexualities, all kinds of identities,” Rood added.  “ … If we didn’t include these things in the curriculum, that creates more opportunities for not understanding each other, which can create discrimination.”

At the elementary-school level, if parents choose to opt out their students, it would be for the entire curriculum because the lessons build off each other. At the secondary level, health is a requirement to graduate, so while parents cannot opt their students out of the entire curriculum, they can opt out of specific lessons by emailing a student’s principal or finding a third-party, certified health class online to meet the graduation requirement. 

There will be no policy changes to govern a specific time for students to speak at board meetings. But as per board member Dr. Benjamin Rood’s suggestions, they can communicate with their student representatives, and should there be an influx of meeting speakers, those reps can work with board President Ben Ovadia to arrange in advance for a student speaking time.

While no action was taken, member Jennifer Fleisher said during committee reports that the board wants to introduce a new state-mandated policy to reissue school IDs to middle- and high-school students with mental health and suicide hotlines shown on them. 

Fleisher also clarified that the board will be able to continue using its current selection process for finding student representatives, clearing confusion about another state-mandated policy requiring student representatives on the board. 

Also during the board’s policy committee meeting, Assistant Superintendent LaCoyya Weathington noted that focus groups with staff and parents showed neither staff nor parents were consistently using the code of conduct at board meetings. In response, Weathington presented a mockup of a new infographic that will make the code of conduct more user friendly so parents, teachers and students can clearly see what they can expect and who will be involved along the way with common infractions.

As the bond referendum approaches, there will be a number of opportunities for the community to get questions answered. Ovadia announced a 90-minute virtual town hall on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Board members and Bob Garrison from Garrison Architects will also make a presentation at the virtual township planning board meeting the following evening at 5:30 p.m. 

Community members will be able to ask questions again at the Sept. 20 board of education action meeting at 6:30 p.m., at the Lewis Administration Building. 

“It doesn’t require approval; there’s no action for council (when they previously presented) or planning board,” Superintendent Dr. Joseph Meloche said. “This is purely a courtesy, just an opportunity to say this is the work, a significant amount of work we’re planning to do in town.”

In other news:

Nysheria Sims-Oliver was introduced as the new Beck Middle School assistant principal at the Sept. 6 board of education meeting. (EMILY LIU/The Sun)
  • Nysheria Sims-Oliver was appointed Beck Middle School assistant principal,  replacing T. Sommerville.
  • As noted in the committee report, the board discussed the merits of keeping the grant writing firm they contracted last year or hiring an employee to take over the role.
  • The board approved an increase in the mileage reimbursement rate from 35 to 47 cents per mile, in alignment with the state’s increase in travel reimbursement.

The next board of education meeting will be on Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m., at the Lewis Administration Building.

 

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